Email marketing terms

What is e-mail marketing?
E-mail marketing is a form of direct marketing which uses electronic mail as a means of communicating commercial or other kind of messages to an audience. In its broadest sense, every e-mail sent to a potential or current customer could be considered e-mail marketing. However, the term is usually used to refer to:
  • Sending emails with the purpose of enhancing the relationship of a merchant with its current or old customers and to encourage customer loyalty and repeat business.
  • Sending e-mails with the purpose of acquiring new customers or convincing old customers to buy something immediately.
  • Adding advertisements in emails sent by other companies to their customers.
  • Emails that are being sent on the Internet
A newsletter is a regularly distributed publication generally about one main topic that is of interest to its subscribers. Many newsletters are published by clubs, societies, associations and businesses, especially companies, to provide information of interest to their members or employees. Some newsletters are created as money-making ventures and sold directly to subscribers.
A newsletter that is sent electronically to subscribers via email.
E-newsletter software
An application (software) that assits the activities of collecting and managing subscribers' emails, designing newsletters, sending them via email and providing related reports.
A subscriber is someone who consented to provide his email (or whose email you have acquired by other means) in order to receive newsletters from you.
Mailing list
A mailing list is a collection of names and addresses used by an individual or an organization to send material to multiple recipients. The term is often extended to include the people subscribed to such a list, so the group of subscribers is referred to as "the mailing list", or simply "the list". In legitimate (non-spam) mailing lists, the individual can subscribe or unsubscribe themselves.
In the context of an e-newsletter management system a mailing list is a collection of subscribers' emails (and in many cases other subscriber data).
Advantages of e-mail marketing
  • E-mail marketing (on the Internet) is popular with companies because:
  • Compared to other media investments such as direct mail or printed newsletters, it is less expensive.
  • Return on investment (ROI) has proven to be high when done properly.
  • It is instant, as opposed to a post-mailed advertisement, an e-mail arrives in a few seconds or minutes.
  • It lets the advertiser "push" the message to its audience, as opposed to a website that waits for customers to come in.
  • It is easy to track. An advertiser can track users via views, bounce messages, un-subscribes, read-receipts, click-throughs, etc. These can be used to measure open rates, positive or negative responses, corrolate sales with marketing.
  • Advertisers can reach substantial numbers of email subscribers who have opted in (consented) to receive e-mail communications on subjects of interest to them.
  • When most people switch on their computer the first thing they do is check their email.
  • Specific types of interaction with messages can trigger other messages to be automatically delivered.


  • Many companies use email marketing to communicate with existing customers, but many other companies send unsolicited bulk e-mail, also known as spam.
  • Illicit email marketing antedates legitimate email marketing, since on the early Internet it was not permitted to use the medium for commercial purposes. As a result, marketers attempting to establish themselves as legitimate businesses in e-mail marketing have had an uphill battle, hampered also by criminal spam operations billing themselves as legitimate.
  • It is frequently difficult for observers to distinguish between legitimate and spam email marketing. First off, spammers attempt to represent themselves as legitimate operators, obfuscating the issue. Second, direct marketing political groups such as the U.S. Direct Marketing Association (DMA) have pressured legislatures to legalize activities which many Internet operators consider to be spamming, such as the sending of "opt-out" unsolicited commercial e-mail. Third, the sheer volume of spam email has led some users to mistake legitimate commercial email (for instance, a mailing list to which the user subscribed) for spam ??? especially when the two have a similar appearance, as when messages include HTML and flashy graphics.
  • Due to the volume of spam email on the Internet, spam filters are essential to most users. Some marketers report that legitimate commercial emails frequently get caught by filters. However, it is somewhat less common for email users to complain that spam filters block legitimate mail.
  • Companies considering an email marketing program must make sure that their program does not violate spam laws such as the United States' CAN-SPAM Act, the European Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 or their Internet provider's acceptable use policy. Even if a company follows the law, if Internet mail administrators find that it is sending spam it is likely to be listed in blacklists.
  • You can read more about spamming and find related sources here.
E-mail marketing terms

Commercial email
Any email sent for commercial purpose; for instance, an advertisement to buy a product or service, an order confirmation from an online store, or a paid subscription periodically delivered by email. 
An automatic reply sent by the email software of the recipient after receipt of an email.

Bounce messages
Email sent back to the server (sender) that originally sent the email.
Soft bounce
A soft bounce is an email that gets as far as the recipient's mail server but is bounced back undelivered before it gets to the intended recipient. it might occur because the recipient's inbox is full. A soft bounce message may be deliverable at another time or may be forwarded manually by the network administrator in charge of redirecting mail on the recipient's domain. On the other hand, a hard bounce is an email message that has been returned to the sender because the recipient's address is invalid.
Hard bounce
Bounced emails that could never get through because the email address doesn't exist or the domain doesn't exist.
Bounce rate
Ratio of bounced emails to total e-mails sent.

Bulk mailing
Terms used by spammers to refer to their line of work. Mostly synonymous with spam or unsolicited commercial email (UCE).
Call to action
Words in the e-mail that entice recipients to do something.
Subject line
It is one of the most important issues in email marketing. The better the subject line of an email, the better probability of being opened by the recipient. Tip: research has shown that emails with subject lines that are less than 35 characters are more likely to be opened by the subscriber.
Emails can be sent in plain text, HTML, multipart (have two parts one in plain text and one in html). Note: it is advisable to send multipart emails.
The action of clicking on a link in a newsletter. Modern e-newsletter software has the ability to record such clicks.
Click-through rate (CTR)
Ratio of click-throughs to total e-mails sent.
Unique click
During a particular period, a visitor to a website could click several times on a particular link, but during that period it is counted only as one and considered a unique visitor.
Email open-rate measures the ratio of e-mails "opened" to the number of emails sent.
The process of collecting and reporting CTR, open-rate ratios, bounces, etc.
Personalization (or merging)
The use of customer information to customize a nesletter for each recipient. Using information previously obtained about the customer (e.g. name), the email is altered so that includes customer particular information. Example: a subject line that reads "Dear John" is a personalized one. Tip: research has shown that personalized emails are more likely to be opened by the subscriber.
Segmentation (or Targeting)
Using previously gathered information to send emails to a subset of a list by applying specific filters (country of origin, zip/postal code, click-through ratio, open-rate ratio etc)

Opt-in (or subscribe)
The action of agreeing to receive emails from a particular company, group of companies or associated companies, by subscribing to an mailing list.
Opt-out (or un-subscribe)
It is the opposite of opt-in. It is the action of un-subscribing from a mailing list.
Double opt-in 
A new subscriber first gives his/her email address to the list software (for instance, on a Web page) and then confirms subscription after receiving a confirmation email asking if it was really him/her. The confirmation is usually done by clicking on a special link in this follow-up email. This ensures that no person can subscribe someone else out of malice or error. The intention of the term "double opt-in" is to make it appear that the confirmation is a duplication of effort; and thus, to justify not confirming subscriptions.
Double opt-out
Same as double opt-in, but the recipient unsubscribes instead of subscribing.
List building
The process of collecting email addresses for use in email campaigns.

Unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE) or SPAM
Commercial email, usually of an advertising nature, sent at the expense of the recipient without his or her permission. Sending UCE is an offense against all major ISPs' terms of service and is also a crime in some jurisdictions. You can read more here.
Spam filter / Spam engine
Software that is installed in the users email client and/or mail server with the purpose of identifying and stopping spam email from reaching the client's inbox or at least to be flagged as such.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Certain parts of this article use material from the Wikipedia article "E-mail marketing".
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